Justin Morneau is out of the starting lineup for the sixth straight game this evening. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that while Morneau is still getting over the flu, he also needed a cortisone shot today to relieve vertebrae inflammation in his neck.
“He had a neck issue before he even got sick, where he was having a stiff neck — something that he’s dealt with in the past, and he’s had this before,” Gardenhire said. “It was just a little shot to kind of get rid of some inflammation.”
The good news is that the neck issue has absolutely nothing to do with his previous post-concussion symptoms. Gardenhire said Morneau was “not going to play anyway” Friday because of the flu, but thinks he could be available to pinch-hit as soon as tomorrow.
“I think Morneau’s going to be back here real soon,” Gardenhire said. “(Saturday) or the next day, I think he’ll be able to play. He’s got a little better look on his face today than he had. He doesn’t feel great today, but I think he’s starting to hold down fluid, and so is Joe (Mauer), and that’s a big key when they start (being) able to eat and keep stuff in their stomach.”
The Twins have been playing with a two-man bench over the past three days — as Delmon Young is also sidelined due to the flu and a rib injury — so they can’t afford to go short-handed much longer.
Morneau was batting .208 (11-for-53) with zero homers, five doubles and three RBI before coming down with the flu.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.